How to Dispose of Denatured Alcohol?

Denatured alcohol is a mixture of ethanol with other additives that make it unsuitable for consumption. The main uses of denatured alcohol are industrial solvents, laboratory reagents, and household cleaning supplies. 

In this article, I will explain the best way to dispose of denatured alcohol, what ways it should not be disposed of, and relevant safety information regarding handling this chemical. 

How to Dispose of Denatured Alcohol?

Denatured alcohol is considered a hazardous chemical in almost every city and municipality in the world. Each city or district has its disposal method, but in almost all cases, denatured alcohol is handed over to a hazardous waste management facility. 

Certain handling protocols apply to almost all cities when it comes to denatured alcohol disposal. Now you need to check your local sanitation department to see what the disposal process is going to be, some cities hold collection events, and you can drop off a certain amount at that event. 

If no such event is planned, it’s possible they already accept drop-offs. You need to first check it out. Once you’re sure where you need to hand over your denatured alcohol, you’ll have to make sure you prepare it accordingly. 

I made a list for you that explains what you should do to prepare for your excess alcohol. See below: 

  • Try to keep the alcohol in its original container. 
  • Keep the mouth of the bottle tightly closed. 
  • If the original bottle is broken, transfer it to another airtight container.
  • Label the container with the name of the chemical, estimated time of purchase, and if possible, the percent ethanol in the mixture. 
  • If you need to pour the alcohol from one container to another, do so on a clean benchtop away from flammable items. 
  • While pouring, try to wear goggles and gloves, make sure the area is well-ventilated. 
  • Once you pour in the alcohol in another container, close the cap shut and wrap the mouth of the bottle with stretch film tightly. 

If you’ve followed all the steps above, you’re ready to dispose of the alcohol. Unless your municipality demands you mix the alcohol with sand or cat litter. In that case do the following.  

Prepare a container with sufficient cat litter or sand, make sure the container has a cap. 

Pour the alcohol into the litter or sand, make sure your workspace has nothing flammable. This includes an open fire, any fire source like a stove or a lighter. Keep away from electronics as well. 

After you pour in the alcohol, close the container. Wait a few hours until the alcohol is fully absorbed. Then you can drop it off at the hazardous waste facility. 

Whenever you transport alcohol, be careful and keep it away from direct sunlight and any flammable substance. 

Now that you know how to properly dispose of denatured alcohol, let me explain what it is in detail and give you safety information regarding it. 

Why is Denatured Alcohol considered dangerous?

Denatured alcohol is extremely flammable. This is why almost every environmental organization considers it a highly dangerous substance. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States labels denatured alcohol as a potentially harmful substance and highly flammable. 

Denatured alcohol is mainly ethyl alcohol, also named ethanol. Ethanol as you know is edible, thus it’s denatured by adding toxic chemicals to deter people from consuming it. 

Denatured alcohol contains additives that are toxic, foul-tasting, and vomit inducing, so people do not consume it. In the United States, denatured alcohol must contain at least 50% ethanol. And in many cases, pyridines and methanol are added to make it toxic. 

Denatured alcohol is also called methylated spirit because of the addition of methanol. Drinking methanol can cause death or permanent blindness. 

Excess inhalation of fumes of this solvent may cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and in worse cases, fainting. 

For all the reasons above, this material should be handled with care and caution. 

How not to dispose of Denatured Alcohol

It should not be thrown into the garbage or flushed down the drain. It has chances of starting a fire in both cases. It is illegal to flush it down the toilet in the UK and most parts of the United States.

Even a little amount of alcohol can cause a fire in the septic system or the garbage truck, or landfills. It is always recommended to read the materials safety data sheet for denatured alcohol before you use it. 

Conclusion

In this article, I explained the best way to dispose of denatured alcohol, what ways it should not be disposed of, and relevant safety information regarding the handling of this chemical. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How to Dispose of Denatured Alcohol

Does denatured alcohol evaporate? 

Yes, it does. The main ingredient of denatured alcohol is ethanol, which is highly volatile and will evaporate slowly if you leave the mouth of the bottle open. 

Can you put ethanol down the drain? 

No, ethanol is highly flammable and may cause a fire inside the septic system. It is forbidden to dispose of ethanol down the drain or the toilet. 

Can you pour denatured alcohol down the toilet? 

No, the main ingredient of denatured alcohol is highly flammable ethanol, this may cause a fire in the septic system and since the system produces a lot of methane gas, there is a chance of explosion. 

Is denatured alcohol hazardous? 

Yes, it is highly flammable and is a fire hazard. Moreover, it often contains methanol which is a highly toxic substance when ingested. 

Is denatured alcohol recyclable? 

It is not recyclable on a large scale but, in households, if you have a big bottle of denatured alcohol, there is no need to throw it out even after expiration, you can simply make cleaning agents out of it for glass, and kitchen counters. It is a good pesticide as well. As long as it is performing as it should, you don’t need to worry about the expiration. 

Is denatured alcohol bad for the pipes? 

Not necessarily, but is extremely flammable and should never be washed down the drain, this may cause a fire or even an explosion. 

References: 

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  3. How to Dispose of Denatured Alcohol. (2022). Retrieved 2 March 2022, from https://www.ehow.co.uk/how_7152589_dispose-denatured-alcohol.html
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  8. Denatured Alcohol Disposal recipes with ingredients, nutrition, instructions, and related recipes. (2022). Retrieved 2 March 2022, from https://www.tfrecipes.com/denatured-alcohol-disposal/
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